Thomas Lewis Preston

From Cvillepedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Thomas L. Preston, ca.1900

Thomas Lewis Preston (1812 - 1903) graduated from the University of Virginia, where he later became a professor and Rector for the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, which was the position he held during the 1864-1865 school year. It was during this time period that Union Generals Philip Sheridan and George Custer made their way to the University. Along with two other professors, Preston was able to keep the University from receiving any major damage during the Union Occupation of the University of Virginia. [1]

T. L. Preston lived through the transformative nineteenth century, through the transition from slavery to Civil War and Reconstruction. Throughout these changes, he had a reputation as being a charismatic gentleman of the highest caliber. He was a deeply religious man and invited both his relatives and some of the most distinguished persons from the South into his home. While he may not be the most accomplished of the Prestons, he was greatly respected by his family and peers and lived a long, varied, and eventful life.[2]

Early Years

Thomas Lewis Preston was born in Abingdon, Virginia on November 20, 1812 to Francis Preston and Sarah Buchanan Campbell. He was their youngest son and the younger brother to future politicians William Campbell Preston and John Smith Preston. He was a student at the University of Virginia from 1830 to 1833, where he studied law. He was a member of the prestigious Jefferson Society, where he developed the strong oratory skills that he was greatly known for. He was also elected the military teacher for the school while a student. After graduation he spent several years abroad in Europe and the Holy Lands, where he learned a great deal about the people and culture of those countries. He married twice, first to Elizabeth Watts, a distant cousin, and later to Anna Maria Saunders. He had no children, but adopted his wife’s two nieces after the Civil War.[3]

Career

Preston inherited the family salt works on the banks of the Holston River. He was the last person in the family to hold the Preston salt works company after being given both his brothers’ shares after their mother’s passing. Despite holding on to the salt works company for over a decade he was unable to succeed in the business, nor was he particularly enamored with the works. In 1862, he sold both the works and the John Montgomery Preston House, which had been built by his brother-in-law.[4]

Civil War

In 1861, war broke out across the nation, tearing it into two. Preston was a slaveholder and held sympathetic views to his home state of Virginia. Thus it was natural that he would decide to enlist as a soldier in the Confederacy after Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861. At the time he was 47 years old, which was above the typical age for a person’s first military service. He served as part of the staff under his kinsman General Joseph E. Johnston and was praised by General Stonewall Jackson for his effort during the first Battle of Bull Run. He was also praised by the Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin. However, after one year of service the war department of Virginia decommissioned him as a general. Subsequently, Preston focused on his role as Rector for the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, which was the position he held during the 1864-1865 school year. It was during this time period that Union Generals Philip Sheridan and George Custer made their way to the University. Along with two other professors, Preston was able to keep the University from receiving any major damage during the Union Occupation of the University of Virginia, though several of his slaves fled with the Union army.[5]

Post-Civil War

  • On May 29, 1890, under the command of Major General Thomas L. Rosser, Preston was among the 200 Confederate Veterans from Charlottesville’s J. Bowie Strange Camp in the procession of the Robert E. Lee Statue unveiling on Monument Avenue. The event was covered extensively, both by local and national press. The Robert E. Lee equestrian sculpture, didn’t go up until nearly 25 years after the Civil War.

Later Years

Toward the end of his life, Preston published two books. One of them focused on the life of his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Campbell Russell, and the other was about the history and settlement of Southwestern Virginia. Both volumes were designed to preserve valuable material for future historians. Thomas Lewis Preston died in March of 1903 and was buried in the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium. [7]

Preston Avenue and the Preston Heights Neighborhood, are named in honor of land owners named Preston and/or Thomas Lewis Preston [citation needed].


People.jpg This biographical article is a stub. You can help cvillepedia by expanding it.

References

External links

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial//thomas-lewis-preston